Remakes often get a bad name in movie discussions. But some of the most beloved movies ever made are remakes of earlier films. Below I’ll look at ten classic movies that are all remakes people may not know are remakes. Whether they take the premise in a wildly different direction or simply move the action to a different location or era, these movies are classics that often outshine their source material.
1. The Fly (1986)
A remake of the 1958 film of the same name starring Vincent Price, David Cronenberg’s The Fly from 1986 pushes the body horror of the premise to its furthest point. The movie follows a scientist who invents a teleportation machine that scrambles and reassembles the molecules of anything or anyone inside after his molecules become mixed with that of a fly.
However, unlike the original, which includes just one transformation scene, Cronenberg’s remake takes time to show Jeff Goldblum’s scientist slowly changing into something inhuman.
2. The Thing (1982)
Another 1980s horror classic that adds significant body horror to its original story, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World. Both stories center on a group of people at an arctic outpost who encounter an alien frozen in the ice.
But the remake adds the layer that the titular thing can take the shape of any biological organism. So it doesn’t just up the body horror but also adds to the paranoia of the story because none of the characters know who they can trust.
3. The Last House on the Left (1972)
A movie that has now been remade itself, horror legend Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left is a remake of Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. Both movies tell the story of criminals who sexually assault and kill a young girl only to seek shelter at her parent’s home after their crime. Craven, of course, ups the brutality and explicit violence for his exploitation-era take on the material.
4. The Departed
There is a long tradition of films being remade in different languages. One celebrated recent example is The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Hong Kong Infernal Affairs film series.
Both tell the story of gangsters and detectives infiltrating each others’ organizations and attempting to weed out the moles on the other side. The Departed is an especially impressive adaptation, given that it’s a single-movie adaptation of three films.
5. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
An earlier example of an English language remake of a non-English film, the 1960s The Magnificent Seven, is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.
Both films revolve around rural communities frequently targeted by marauders who enlist the assistance of seven heroes. This early adaptation of a samurai flick into a western is merely a single instance illustrating the mutually beneficial connection between these two cinematic genres.
6. A Fistful of Dollars
A later example of the relationship between samurai and western films is this western remake of another Kurosawa film, Yojimbo. A Fistful of Dollars moves the story west but maintains the same story beats of a lone warrior playing two warring factions in a town against each other for his gain.
7. A Star Is Born (1954)
There are now four different cinematic iterations of A Star is Born. While many viewers know that the 2018 film is a remake, they may not be aware that the first iteration made its way onto screens in 1937 before the 1954 version starring Judy Garland. Every version follows the rise and fall of a relationship between a young starlet and an established star struggling with addiction.
8. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
The rare remake that doesn’t change anything about its original plot or setting, Little Shop of Horrors (1986) updates the original 1960 film by adding songs. Indeed, the 1986 rendition is a cinematic interpretation of the musical stage production, drawing inspiration from the original film. Both narratives offer a delightful and entertaining experience centered around a man-eating plant that initially appears as a blessing for a petite floral boutique but rapidly transforms into a dangerous threat.
It doesn’t happen often, but filmmakers sometimes remake their earlier work. That’s the case with Heat, Michael Mann’s 1995 bank heist masterpiece, a remake of Mann’s earlier made-for-TV movie L.A. Takedown.
10. Scarface (1983)
Brian De Palma’s crime world opus about a man who rises to power only for his ambition to be his downfall isn’t the most original plotline, but in this case, it’s also a direct remake of the 1932 film of the same name. While the 1983 films can be much more explicit in their sex, violence, and drug use, both explore ambition in criminal underworlds.
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